How Should Mike Buehler Fill County Board Vacancies?

Mike Buehler

One school of thought says make your choice provided you can get majority of board to agree, other says go by county party chair recommendation

Saturday’s McHenry County Blog “Message of the Day – Feet” article pointed out McHenry County Board Chairman-elect Mike Buehler’s (R, Crystal Lake) new term will be faced with appointing up to two county board members in the first two to three months.

Buehler formally takes office on December 7 at the County Board’s biennial Organizational Meeting, when he and all board members elected in November will take their oaths of office for their respective terms. Buehler will be sworn in for his 4-year term, while all county board members will be sworn in for 2-year terms.

Also on December 7, the 23 county board members will elect the board’s vice chairman for the biennium, and the Committee on Committees will be formed with 1 board member from each of the six districts, and chaired by the vice chairman.

The Committee on Committees will make recommendations for standing committee assignments among the 23 board members, including chairs and vice chairs for the six standing committees.

The Shaw Media article referenced in the “Message of the Day – Feet” article, published in both the Northwest Herald and the Daily Herald on Friday discussed the vacancy of County Board District 4 due to the passing of Chuck Wheeler (R, McHenry) on November 12.

The Shaw Media article also assumed County Board District 2 Member Suzanne Ness (D, Crystal Lake) will resign her seat in order to devote her full time to her new role as the 66th district state representative. Ness is scheduled to be sworn-in to the Illinois General Assembly on January 13.

Suzanne Ness

While Ness is expected to resign her county board seat, Illinois Law does not require her to do so. She could hold both positions as a county board member and a state representative, though she could not draw a salary from both jobs.

Therefore, the timing of Ness’ resignation does not have to be effective until she submits her resignation with the effective date, and could go beyond the January 13 date, possibly tied to when the Illinois General Assembly will convene for the Spring Session given COVID restrictions.

Given the Fall Veto Session of the General Assembly was cancelled over COVID concerns, a delayed Spring Session is quite possible. This could give Ness the possibility to delay her resignation until the immediate Wheeler vacancy is declared, candidates apply, are vetted and the appointment made.

Kristina Zahorik

Which brings up the question of the process Buehler could use to fill the Wheeler vacancy and the upcoming Ness vacancy. McHenry County Democratic Party Chair Kristina Zahorik was interviewed by Shaw Media, but Republican Chair Tyler Wilke could not be reached.

Zahorik made it clear, for the upcoming Ness vacancy where Buehler must appoint a Democrat, he should use her recommendation she makes through the McHenry County Democrats.

“I would hope that this would be the incoming chairman’s first really large public gesture and that, if he does want to govern in the spirit of true bipartisanship, he would take the recommendations of either party.”

McHenry County Democratic Chair Kristina Zahorik, 11/27/20 to Shaw Media


Outgoing County Board Chairman Jack Franks was quoted in the article with a different perspective/input for Buehler.

“The two political parties can play an advisory role in the process, but not a decisive one.”

Outgoing McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, 11/27/20 to Shaw Media


Chairman-elect Buehler told Shaw Media once hearing both schools of thought, particularly on the political party recommendation:

“I think (they) would carry a great deal of weight.

“I would probably consider their recommendations first and foremost…but I wouldn’t just default to that.”

McHenry County Board Chairman-elect Mike Buehler, 11/27/20 to Shaw Media


County Board Member Carolyn Schofield (R, Crystal Lake) was also interviewed in the Shaw Media article, and she came away from her discussions with Chairman-elect Buehler very positively.

While this is Buehler’s first elective office when he’s sworn in on December 7, many will watch how he will govern amid the transition to the new County Board for the next biennium. Given his 25 years of business ownership, Buehler will recognize that Democrat Chair Zahorik has a valid point about the need to work cooperatively with both major parties, though what that means may not be what Zahorik thinks it means.

Buehler will find his way to use the best appointment process that best suits him, including board member input, the political party’s input and any other objective criteria and resources he’ll use to determine whom he’ll appoint to succeed Chuck Wheeler and Suzanne Ness, who will hopefully receive unanimous advice and consent from the County Board.

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How Should Mike Buehler Fill County Board Vacancies? — 26 Comments

  1. You have to pick someone from the same political party as the previous officeholder.

    There is one GOP seat and one Democratic.

    Therefore it is going to be difficult if you have a GOP Chairman picking a Democrat.

    Any county committees would be dominated by the Republican members who are 2/3rds of the Board, so same problem there.

    The best thing to do in my opinion is to have each party caucus and submit their recommondations and just follow that.

    The new Board Chairman is going to need cooperation from time to time from Democratic members so this is his opportunity to build some bridges.

  2. Recently (mid 2019), there was a Democrat county board member in Kane County who was appointed to state representative. Instead of resigning her seat, she didn’t want the Republican county board chairman appointing her successor, even though the law required a Democrat, and the board members were split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats.

    The newly minted state rep felt the county board chairman would appoint a “DINO”, “Democrat In Name Only” to her solidly Democrat district seat (Kane has single-member districts).

    So, she never resigned her county board seat and her term expires tomorrow, Nov 30.

    Ness could choose to do that, too since the law allows it and prevents her from drawing a salary from both positions.

    Now, if Ness could use that as leverage with Buehler to make sure he appoints whom she wants to succeed her, we’ll have to wait and see.

    As far as each “party caucus”, are you referring to the precinct committeepersons in each county board district? There are 36 precincts in District 4 and 38 precincts in District 2. Doubt either party has committeepersons in each precinct.

    The Democrats organize their county central committee along county board districts instead of townships, and if the McHenry Dems’ website is up-to-date, the District 2 Democrat Chair is John Labaj.

    “BecauseScience” you’re absolutely right, Mike Buehler will need cooperation from Democrats, especially on the crucial question of redistricting which will take place by mid-year, provided the Census 2020 data is received by the end of March, as scheduled.

    When you say Buehler needs to “build some bridges”, Buehler needs to establish, with both county party chairs, he is the chief engineer/project leader, and they are contributing important materials to building that bridge.

    Buehler cannot be seen as a weak chairman, and I do not think he will start off that way.

    Finally, McHenry County is the last collar county board with a Republican majority starting next month. Kane and DuPage counties had their boards flipped to Democrat control, and Kane has a Democrat chairman (DuPage has a Republican at-large chairman).

    Hopefully, Republicans on the County Board are up to the challenge to be an example of an efficient, cooperative functioning County Board and Buehler is from all indications, up to the challenge.

  3. Unlike Illinois legislators, county board member meetings are limited by the Open Meetings Act.

    No meeting may be held if a majority of a County Board committee would be present.

  4. Hi John and Cal. 🙂

    During the 1990s and 2000s, there were a few politicians who served two positions:

    Kimberly Lightford – IL State Senator & Maywood Trustee (completed term),

    William Shaw – IL State Senator & Dolton Mayor,

    Ted Lechowicz – Cook County Commissioner & IL State Senator (completed term),

    Peter Silvestri – Cook County Commissioner & Elmwood Park Mayor,

    Adeline Jay Geo-Karis – IL State Senator & Zion Mayor

    Currently, there’s:

    Bradley Stephens – IL State Representative & Rosemont Mayor

    Were all of the above were only paid their Illinois’ General Assembly salary?

  5. Kristin Za-whore-ick. Why would he ever appoint dung beetle?

  6. Eddie, yup, and missing from your list, as it ends tomorrow, is Barbara Hernandez, who took office in Springfield in 2019 at age 26, and is serving as both a state representative (IL Dist 83) and Kane County Board member for an Aurora district. The latter gig ends for her tomorrow and she did not seek reelection to the county board.

    And Hernandez did win her first elected state representative term this month, so she’ll be serving with Ness.

    I’ve mentioned Hernandez in the recent past, given she’s now 28, as a potential Democrat successor to Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in the future, assuming the new IL-14 includes the Kane County portion of Aurora. Another potential Democrat successor could be State Representative, now State Senator-elect Karina Villa (D, Senate Dist 25, West Chicago), who just flipped Jim Oberweis’ state senate district to blue this month.

    As far as Villa, she’s already in IL-14, though doubtful she could win the congressional seat in the district as it’s currently configured.

  7. Hi John. 🙂

    I wasn’t familiar with Barbara Hernandez. Thanks for the info. 🙂

    Some online articles quoted Stephens being paid both salaries, but he voluntarily gave up the mayor’s salary. 😐

    He won his first election too over a Madigan protege, retaining a Chicago and suburban seat long held by the McAuliffes. 🙂

  8. Did Jack ever take the recommendation of the GOP when the County Board Member stepped down?

    How about the fiasco of the County Coroner?

    Where was Zahorik telling Jack to do what she is requesting?

    Now she is telling Buehler he must do as she says?

    Payback might be a bitch!

  9. @John Lopez When someone withdraws from the race after winning the primary but before a certain date prior to the general election, there is a caucus to determine whom to place on the ballot as a replacement.

    The caucus of that party in that instance consists of whatever precinct committeemen are elected in that district who show up for the meeting designated for the vote.

    All of the precincts don’t have to have been filled.

    If it is a seat being vacated after the election, however, the County Board Chairman makes the selection subject to approval by the full County Board.

    If they don’t approve the Chairman goes back to the well and advances another name until there is approval.

    The political parties do not need to be consulted.

    However, I think it would be a good idea in this instance to do so, especially if the opposite party is concerned.

    You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.

  10. It doesn’t matter at all. The board is overrun by women and gays. The board is done. It is less than worthless.

  11. Eddie, whom, maybe the law is different for a county board member opposed to a municipal official, if serving in IL General Assembly.

  12. Hi John.

    The site refers to the Illinois Constitution on dual office pay, which says what you already stated previously. 🙂

  13. Hi John. An old online Chicago Tribune article mentioned Lechowicz received Cook County Commissioner pay, when the Illinois General Assembly wasn’t in session.

    There’s always a loophole. 🙂

  14. The same loophole exists for members of the General Assembly who are in non-elective positions.

  15. Jack Franks did not appoint the GOP’s choice when Andrew Gasser retired.

  16. When Sheriff Art Tyrrell, McHenry County’s first countywide elected Democrat, left office after being re-elected, the County Board selected an out-of-county police chief (Mundelein, I believe) upon the promise that he would not run for re-election.

  17. How to handle the vacancies

    1. McHenry County Republican Party will NOT make a formal recommendation to Buehler. (Wink wink.) A good Republican gets appointed to Wheeler’s seat. There should be shortage of candidates.

    2. Buehler will select a “Democrat” of his own liking. He will ignore Democrats if they name someone, just as Franks ignored Republicans. The Democrat will be as “independent” as Ness says she is.

    3. The replacements will either come at the same time or the Republican will come first, but the Democrat will not come first.

    That’s it. Follow these three simple rules for victory!

    You got it, Buehler?



  18. Thanks for all the clarifications on the dual pay law, and the loophole.

    Thanks to the pandemic, given apart from 3 days in late May, the General Assembly has not been in session since February, Hernandez kept getting paid by Kane County.

    That gig ends for her today, along with what Jeff Ward calls “cadillac” benefits for part-time county board members.

    Least she wasn’t on the board long enough to get a pension.

    Which does bring up, when will Ness resign?

  19. Perhaps, Ness won’t resign.

    John, you’re welcome in the updates. 🙂

  20. A reason to stay on the County Board is that many providers won’t accept the state insurance plan patients due to slow pay.

    This is only going to be getting worse.

    Given that the Board is down to six committees, that means that there are usually only 3 meetings per month that Board members need to attend, unless they are liason to something else, which would add one meeting at most.

    Skillicorn could apparently be in a parade in Harvard and voting in Springfield at the same time.

    If a state legislator leaves a vacancy, they are replaced by the County party chairs who each cast a weighted vote based on the precincts they have in their county which are in the legislative district.

    That is not done here for Couonty Board replacements.

    There is no procedure for the local parties and they have no role unless the Board Chairman decides to give them one.

    Beuhler can play tit for tat if he wants but I would suggest that he should take the high road and take input from the parties.

    It will earn him points going forward.

  21. If Ness stays on the County Board, it’s a moot point concerning Democrats making recommendation.

    I think all have gotten that Ness is under no legal pressure to resign by January 13 (day of Illinois General Assembly swearings-in) and she may choose not to resign for the immediate future.

    Ness already promised she would not take a state pension if elected to state representative, and she hasn’t been on the County Board long enough to have a pension there.

    We’ll see how this plays out.

    Buehler definitely has one, Republican spot to fill on the County Board, and am sure he’ll do it wisely, working with everyone including Republican County Party Chair Wilke and establishing a cooperative yet firm style of leadership.

  22. I meant to say “There should be *no* shortage of candidates.”

  23. He could appoint someone to the Republican seat and leave the Dem’s seat unfilled for 2 yrs JUST LIKE FRANKS DID WITH THE CORONERS VACANCY!!!

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